You’ve been to the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels, and you’ve eaten your weight in pho. So what’s next while you’re in Ho Chi Minh City? Good thing for you, the city of Saigon has a lot more in store for you to discover, including plenty of far less touristy sites to see and things to do.
Explore the city’s alternative art scene
Station 3A (Nhà Ga 3A) is an alternative art space showing off Saigon’s modern art and street art scenes. Here you’ll find art and design studios, as well as the noteworthy Mai’s Gallery, which hosts experimental art events. Walk around the grounds to see graffiti works by both local and foreign artists.
Exercise with locals in Tao Dan park
Need a break from HCMC’s intense traffic? Head to Tao Dan park, a peaceful spot smack-dab in the middle of the city. With lawns and benches for lounging about, you can sit and watch as local life goes by — or you can throw some energy into your visit and join a local fitness class! In early mornings, you’ll find locals practicing tai chi, while in the evenings, there are free outdoor aerobics classes — perfect for burning off that banh mi lunch.
Sip a Vietnamese coffee in a hidden café
There’s no shortage of great tucked-away places for enjoying a traditional Vietnamese coffee. We recommend Mocking Bird, Saigonese, and i.d. Café as all excellent choices for experiencing local life while you get your caffeine fix.
Cho Lon Market (Binh Tay Market)
Also called Cho Lon Market, Binh Tay is between Districts 5 and 6. Even though it is a part of many city tours, it is not as flooded with foreigners as Ben Thanh Market. The prices are a little lower, and it is mostly a wholesale market. Especially in the weeks before traditional holidays, the place is very busy selling tons of decorations. English speaking vendors are rare here in Chinatown, but Mandarin and Cantonese are widely spoken.
Enjoy local beer
Why would anybody bother with international dishwater, if some of the greatest beers in Asia are brewed right around the corner? Platinum tastes just awesome and its headquarters are right here in District 1. Hoa Vien offers dark, Czech style beer on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street. But don’t forget Pasteur Brewing Company on Pasteur and, of course, the ever-expanding medley of other craft breweries.
Shop ’til you drop at Saigon Square
If you’re looking for a new outfit, a piece of jewellery, or some other accessory, then head to Saigon Square. Packed with plenty of stalls (and plenty of shoppers), it’s a good alternative to nearby Ben Thanh Market, with better prices, plus some breezy air conditioning for when the Ho Chi Minh humidity becomes too unbearable.
Visit the Emperor Jade Pagoda
If you’re going to visit just one temple while you’re in town, make it this one. This 100-year-old temple is pretty spectacular, with haunting statues, swirls of incense smoke, and crowds of worshippers honouring Ngoc Hoang, the King of Heaven.
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